Same name, new location

•June 20, 2007 • Leave a Comment

Well, I am moving my blog (such as it is) over to the new PSU blogging platform.  Hopefully my one reader can find me there.  It is still McEducation, but now it has a new look and a new home.

McEducation

My Horizon Report Answers

•May 9, 2007 • Leave a Comment

I was included in the new survey from here at PSU around the Horizon report. I have included my answers here because I felt like it made me think and that my answers might do the same for others. They are grouped by category (from the Horizon Report), and each category requires answering the same three questions.

User Created Content

What are the missing pieces for this technology or practice to be implemented in higher education?

I think there needs to be a platform for publishing digital media that allows different levels of access, so students can publish the same things to different communities. So, a student making a podcast might want everyone to see it, only her class, or just her friends. A way to tag posts in a way that allowed them to be in different bins would make publishing in higher ed a more powerful technology.

What kind of research would you like to see around this topic?

I would like to see research that tries to look beyond tools and comparisons between the affordances of different tools and instead looks at the sort of “technology ecosystem” and how it contributes to the community of teaching and learning. I think we need to move beyond statistics of how people use these tools and get a more anthropological understanding of how they impact the culture of a higher education institution.

What are some of the learning implications of this topic?

Obviously the implications, at the very least, are that we have reached the point at which students (and hopefully faculty) see static text produced by a single person as a impoverished representation of the knowledge of that individual. Users are transforming the way they represent themselves and this will naturally carry over into how they represent their understanding. We (as faculty) need to be prepared to understand these new forms and assess them as part of how we determine students understand of a content area.

Social Networking

What are the missing pieces for this technology or practice to be implemented in higher education?

We need a way for students and faculty to aggregate their social networking spaces with the other key web-based technologies they use. Right now the multiple networks that many students participate in are just beginning to play well together. We need something that really integrates these so that students connect to faculty and students as well as all their content and digital media.

What kind of research would you like to see around this topic?

Well, assuming there is actually heavy penetration of this technology into the teaching and learning culture of the university, the implications are profound. It means more porous boundaries between in-class activity and out of class activity. This means that considerations of curriculum and assessment (to name just two) have to be entirely reconsidered at a university level.

What are some of the learning implications of this topic?

Well, assuming there is actually heavy penetration of this technology into the teaching and learning culture of the university, the implications are profound. It means more porus boundaries between in-class activity and out of class activity. This means that considerations of curriculum and assessment (to name just two) have to be entirely reconsidered at a university level.

New Forms of Publishing

What are the missing pieces for this technology or practice to be implemented in higher education?

First and foremost is a reconsideration of what it means to be an intellectual in a field of study, and how you go about making a case for that contribution (e.g. tenure). In academia the way that you succeed is to contribute original ideas to your community and get recognition from your peer for you ideas quality. Self-publishing and social networking and collaboration tools will require a rethinking of how to count publishing as a part of your work.

What kind of research would you like to see around this topic?

I would like to see research around how the new forms of publishing transform the academic discourse. Are ideas more dynamic? Is there more critique and response to critique in short cycles? Are these new forms of publication considered valuable and unique contributions to a field?

What are some of the learning implications of this topic?

See the above.

Teaching as technology

•May 1, 2007 • 5 Comments

On my way to work today I was listening to ETS talk, a great podcast that originates with Educational Technology Services (thus the ETS) here at PSU. [Minor disclaimer – I have been a guest on the podcast]. The director of ETS and the podcast’s host is Cole Camplese [second disclaimer – Cole is a friend of mine], who does a lot of interesting work / thinking around how to integrate technology into learning and teaching. In episode 22 of ETS talks, one of the regulars, Allan Gyorke, begins a discussion was about developing a boot camp so that faculty here could start to think about how to really integrate Web 2.0 technologies into their courses. What struck me was that while talking about moving the conception of technology toward this new paradigm, they were also talking about teaching and learning using the equivalent of a Web 1.0 metaphor (or maybe Web 1.5). I think this is really common not only in the learning design community, but in the teaching and learning community in general (e.g. Colleges of Education). Maybe we can expand our thinking about teaching and learning by remembering it is a form of technology.

On a fundamental level, teaching is the ultimate (and by that I mean not greatest, but original) technology. If we define technology as a tool that helps us accomplish a task, then it becomes clear that teaching is a technology. In fact, it is the technology that sets us apart as a species. Humans ability to teach each other, and by doing so transmit information from generation to generation, is what makes us so successful. Alan Kay said “technology is only technology to those born before technology.” [Thanks to Cole for that quote] Obviously, there is no one around to remember when teaching was technology.

If we are willing to conceptualize teaching as technology, then what does it mean for us to think of teaching as a 2.0 endeavor? I think what it means is the “teacher” needs to give up the idea that they own the technology. We (the teachers) have to give it away. I posted about an un-conference the other day as an idea of how to reconsider academic conferences. This is, in some ways, an extension of the un-conference idea. I will try and use the idea of the ETS boot camp as an example. They proposed getting a group of learning designers together, getting them in groups and setting them a design challenge from a faculty member. They would solve this challenge using social software tools and then present their solutions to a panel of faculty for evaluation. Then these ideas / design projects would be made available for others to see as exemplars of how to integrate social tools. Given the metaphor for teaching, this is good pedagogy.

Now let me propose an alternative that attempts to change the metaphor [recognizing this is not fully baked]. Create a social space that is open for proposals from the learning design and faculty community at PSU. Anyone can make a proposal for development – e.g. I am interested looking at how del.icio.us could be used in an undergraduate course in science teaching or I am interested in thinking about how YouTube might be used in any course. The people in the community would “vote” for different proposal by adding their name to the proposal. When a proposal reaches some critical mass of people signed on, perhaps a mix of designers and faculty, it becomes a real group. The group is given resources – i.e. physical space, online space, other resources from ETS, etc. Once the group is up and running, others may join. The group sets up its own meeting times and goals and its only responsibility is to report back to the larger community, maybe in a on-going blog that includes products that can be shared. This creates a system that is responsive to need and not “owned” by the teacher (in this case ETS).

Imagine a university that worked this way. Students or faculty could make course proposals to the community. When a critical mass was reached the course becomes reality and then other can join. You could set criteria like enrollment limits and how the course would count toward a degree, etc. You might end up with a proliferation of courses about The OP, but you also might end up with a incredibly dynamic, innovative and powerful learning community. Talk about an open university. The Un-university? University 2.0? Just a thought.

Culture as an analog for individual

•April 26, 2007 • 2 Comments

In developing curricula for science education we base our work in part on the misconceptions students bring with them to the classroom. As part of my research I examine classroom science practice, and in particular the practice of one exceptional Chemistry teacher that is a part of my research group. He has infused his curricula, which he developed from scratch by himself, with a great deal of the history of chemistry. One of the units he does on burning involves having students do a series of experiments and then they are asked to draw on these experiments to support or refute phlogisten theory. This got me thinking about curriculum development and its relationship to the history of a field.

My question is: has there ever been a curricula designed (in science or not) that uses the historical development of ideas in a field as a analog to help structure activities in a classroom?  For example, in Physics this would start with the Aristotelian ideas that are considered core misconceptions current students have when entering Physics classes. You would design a set of experiences that challenge these core Aristotelian misconceptions. Then work through the ideas that Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, etc. in response to particular problems. The idea is not to focus on the history per se, but on the problems in the disciplines that great scientists grappled with and solved.  For example, using the data that supported a geocentric model of the universe, what were the weaknesses of the model, and what was the final piece of data that caused the revolution to a heliocentric universe.

To analogize to learning theory, you could view the revolutionary moments in the development of a science discipline as a reorganization of the facts of the field analogous to an accomodation in conceptual change. In this way you can use a map of the history of the discipline as a sort of roadmap to the likely development of an individual’s understanding of the discipline. The development of scientific disciplinary culture becomes an analog for the development of individual understanding of the ideas of that culture.

I know there have been curricula that focus on the history of science and primary source readings, but has anyone every considered history as an analogical guide for curriculum development? Thoughts would be appreciated.

Conference as Learning Community

•April 23, 2007 • 1 Comment

I have just returned from the annual meeting of the National Association for Research on Science Teaching (NARST) in New Orleans, LA. What struck me clearly this time was the completely outmoded way that conferences (not just NARST) are run. I have been reading about the concept of an un-conference recently in Fred Stutzman’s blog. The idea is based on Open Space Technology. Generally, the idea is that of a self organizing conference. People are invited and then create an agenda on the fly (sometimes in advance via Web 2.0 tools) including break-out sessions based on emergent issues of interest.

How would this work in an academic research conference? That is the question I have been wrestling with. One of the difficulties is that most universities tie reimbursement for conference travel to presenting, so no presentation means no reimbursement. This makes a conference without a fixed agenda very difficult to populate. One solution is to allow all participants to be named as presenters. The solution I think is strongest, is to sandwich the unconference between poster sessions. In the morning have a poster session with refreshments. People are official presenters so there is no issue with support. Then there is a large middle section that is unconference. Then in the evening there is a poster session again with wine and cheese refreshments. It seems to have potential for a really powerful microtime learning community.

I just found out today that one of my amazing colleagues here at PSU, James Nolan, has been using Open Space Technology in his work with teachers in PSU’s professional development school. I am hoping to see this in action and report back how it updates my thinking on the academic unconference.

Another iPhone Teacher Education Idea

•February 23, 2007 • 11 Comments

The power of the iPhone is its portability and connectivity. The way I imagine this working to support teacher education is prospective teachers are in a classroom to do observations in order to understand inquiry science pedagogy. The teacher is doing a lab with students working in groups. Prospective teachers with an iphone would be asked to follow different student groups and collect videotape of how those students were engaged in the activity. When class is over, all students can then transfer their video to the instructors’ laptop. Then the class can analyze the lesson looking not just at the teacher or one group, but at any group in the class. You could, for example, ask prospective teachers to make hypothesis about student learning based on the video of one group and then “test” those hypotheses with video of other groups.

Teachers as the ultimate theorists

•February 19, 2007 • Leave a Comment

Just a quick thought. This morning it struck me that teaching is an activity that naturally generates theory (little t). To be able to explain something to someone else (how to make oatmeal) naturally leads to questions about why and therefore naturally leads to theory building. In terms of science, teaching may be the ultimate creative act.

 
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